Surgeon General calls for social media warning labels

Research shows teenagers spend nearly five hours a day on social media, and it is taking a toll on their mental health.

"It makes your anxiety level go up. Why? Because it's just more information you are getting cued into, and it keeps coming and coming. It's more overload," said 17-year-old Keenan Weis.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms, similar to those on packs of cigarettes, to remind parents and kids that social media has not been proven safe.

He cited several studies, including one that showed that teens who spend three hours a day on social media double their risk of depression and anxiety.

"I don't think there's any harm in putting a warning on social media. Whether it does any good, I don't know," said Connie Robertson, Clinics Director at MyHealth For Teens and Young Adults in Hopkins.

Robertson says they see the negative effects of social media on young people's mental health every day.

She says, unlike adults, children aren't mature enough to walk away from social media, so it's up to parents to limit how much their children use it and encourage them to do other things like go outside or play sports.

"We're not going to be able to say social media, go away. It's there, it's here, It's going to be continuing in our lives, but can we put some safety nets around it? Absolutely," said Robertson. 

"For our kids today, big tech is their big tobacco," said Erich Mische, Executive Director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

Local suicide prevention advocates say the rise in popularity of social media has coincided with a rise in the rate of teen suicide. They say warning labels should be just one of several steps to make social media safer for kids.

"I have called this a public health crisis. That it is a clear and present danger to America's youth," said Mische.